Tag Archives: children

Obsession

I don’t know if the obsession she’s experiencing at the moment is about getting her own way or whether it’s really about the boy.  Maybe it’s a combination of both.

She has issues, to put it mildly.  While her obsessions tended to change over time, fulfilling them was always genuinely necessary to preserve her sanity.

I remember when she was little and she just had to have all the shoes in the house paired up and lined against the baseboard of one wall with the toes pointed toward it.  There was no pattern in the shoes, just that they had to be lined up.

She was four years old.

I explained that it would probably be better if everyone’s shoes were in her own closet, that way Mommy could get ready for work and Oldest could get ready for school.  I asked her if she’d help me put them all back.  She did help me, and easily enough.  But then a few hours later they’d all be lined up against the wall again.  The explanation was repeated, the agreement reached, and the shoes returned.  This whole repetitive process lasted several days.  Slowly, the obsession with the shoes evolved until she was only lining her own shoes in her own closet.  Eventually she forgot about them altogether, and they wound up in a tangled mess like every other young girl’s shoes on the floors of closets everywhere.

Once, for a really long time, she had an obsession with pencils.  She just had to have them.  One entire dresser drawer was eventually devoted to housing nothing but the slender, graphite filled, and cylindrical slivers of wood.  Most were yellow because those were the easiest to collect.  But trips to the store and most small gifts for her usually involved at least one.   They became outlandish in both color and size.  Erasers were never an issue at all.

She was eight years old before we were finally able to empty that drawer and dispose of them all.

I’ve read that Attention Deficit Disorder is a little bit hereditary, and I do remember occasions when I’ve become obsessed with something, but mostly I think I just have an addictive personality.  I’ve been addicted to cigarettes since I was fourteen years old, I can get addicted to a computer game like nobody’s business, and activities for me have to be entered into lightly.  I once thought it would be neat to make a scrapbook.  Hundreds of dollars later I had every imaginable tool used by the most devoted scrap bookers everywhere, and made lots of scrapbooks and mementos.  Then the thrill of it quickly waned until I crashed all at once and just stopped doing it.  That ride took me through three or four years of constant snapshots and diligently collected pretty paper and ribbon.

I’ve suspected once or twice that I might be bi-polar.

When I stopped smoking for a year I was using an electronic cigarette and collected every flavor that sounded remotely interesting.  The interest in the collection wore off when I found the perfect flavor, but eventually I started smoking again.  Now I both smoke and vape.  I think I’m addicted to both.  I’m not smoking three packs a day anymore, but I’m still struggling to keep it under one.

Youngest’s dad was an alcoholic.  I’ve cautioned her about the lethal combination of ADD, Alcoholism, and Addictive Personalities.  I’ve talked to her about how careful she has to be to avoid self-medicating with drugs and alcohol.  I think so far she’s done okay.  I know she drinks some, and I’d be stupid to think there wasn’t any pot smoldering in her vicinity.  And I can only hope that she’s being careful.

But she’s almost nineteen, so she’s probably not.  Nothing I’ve said to her thus far has fallen on receptive ears, so I have no meaningful reason to believe that my wise words of advice will have any positive affect whatsoever.

She was about thirteen when she met the boy.  Everyone who knew him said he was bad news.  She wouldn’t believe them.  She eventually lost friends because of him.  He’s also the reason she started shutting me out.

He’s come and gone, weaving himself into and out of her life one crisis at a time, leaving her heartbroken and crushed, only to come back to her and assure her that this time it’s for real.  Loving him has left her closed to any good opportunity that might ever come her way.

I thought that it was finally over, that even though she had feelings for him that might never go away, he had at least moved on.  He’d found someone else to play with, torture, and maim.  But then he reappeared.  I didn’t have a clue.   I learned after the fact that he was the reason Youngest had packed up and moved out two weeks ago.

She’s insisting that he has to stay with us.  She finally told me that through circumstances beyond his control, circumstances that are none of my business, he has nowhere to be.  She’s demanding that we give him a place to stay.

We said no.

She doesn’t come home now at night after work, and I’m a little uncertain whether or not she is even still working.  I do know that whatever this boy wants, he will manipulate her into providing.  I tried to tell her that if he loved her, he wouldn’t want her to give up her home for his sake.

Yesterday she threatened sleeping in her car, with him, in order to provide him shelter, and that if we didn’t let him stay with us, then she wouldn’t come home either.  I told her I wouldn’t be harassed, bullied, or manipulated.  I reminded her that she could come home any time she wanted, but that where Boy is concerned, the answer is no.

She thinks she’s proving herself to him at all costs so that he’ll finally get it and never leave her again.

Love conquers all, etc.

The only time I hear from her is with an occasional text that demands we let him stay here, and promises that she’ll come home, too, if only we allow him to come with her.  Our response has been firm, and her insistence increasingly more hostile.  I don’t know why he has no place to go, and apparently I’m not supposed to.  Which means it’s probably a pretty grave situation that now involves Youngest.

I don’t think I want to know.

What makes this mother’s heart even more filled with angst is the idea that she might really be sleeping in her car, in parts of town unknown, surrounded by evil and ill will.  I have no hope that the boy will protect her.  Boy is the reason for all her current troubles.  And instead of encouraging her to come home and leaving her alone, he is dragging her down with him.

I talked to a gentlemen I highly admire and respect about a similar situation in his own life.  He told me about a son with whom he does not speak.  The son had gotten involved with a woman who pulled him into drugs, and the dad told me that it was more than he could bear to watch his son neglect his own children in favor of a drug addict and her children.  To be involved with his son meant that the rest of the family, and the quality of his own life, suffered.  So while he hated to do it, he felt like he had no choice but to cut the ties.

I don’t know if I’m in the same situation, or if this is the choice I will soon have to make.  I hope not.  I hope Youngest hasn’t gotten herself involved in something from which she will not be easily extracted.  While all the signs are there that she is experiencing an obsession, I’m still not clear on whether the obsession is with the boy or with her own efforts to get us to let him stay here.  I’m hoping the fixation is not with something more sinister.

She never did like being told ‘no’.  It comforts me to think that this might just be a simple power struggle between two stubborn people.  Youngest did inherit my unwillingness to budge.

She may have also inherited my addictive personality, which does provide some room for concern.

Right now she’s addicted to this fight, and while I’m determined to win it, dwelling in my own obsessions over it, I worry about the price of the victory.  That boy will not spend one night in my home.

I might just lose my daughter in the process of proving it.

Part of me knows I already have.

 

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Out of the Mouths of Babes

I never understood the power children can wield with their innocent little words.  The irony is that they don’t either.  They’re too young.  With one simple sentence that even they don’t understand, they have the power to embarrass, shame, and educate otherwise caring and intelligent adults.

I’m sure that every parent reading this has already had that image come to mind of that time when their dear little one said something that had the parent wondering whether or not they’d go to jail now, or merely have to pay a fine.

When my oldest was about two and a half years old, our area suffered a horrible snow storm.  At the time, we lived in a mobile home just off the highway, jammed really close to other mobile homes.

We opened the front door to a wall of snow that we later discovered had covered us from ground to roof, but only on one side.  It was an occasion where the snow drifts were pulled by the fierce wind, in a vacuum, away from the back of one trailer only to be deposited against the front side of the one next to it.  We could all exit our back doors and step down onto bare grass.

I was amazed that we hadn’t lost electricity. It was the perfect Christmas Day, only it was mid-January.

My daughter grew restless and wanted to go out and play in the ‘no’.  I bundled her little body up from head to toe with layers and layers of cottony goodness while her dad knocked the snow away from the front door.

She walked so stiffly, arms almost standing out on their own, and ran out onto the porch before I could catch her.  She fell, and got lost in the snow drift that remained.  I went in after her and pulled her up quickly.

She was giggling.  “’No’, Mommy.  ‘No’!

“That’s right, Baby.  Snow!”

I held onto her as we descended the porch and stepped out onto a fairly clean lawn.  I showed her how to make snowballs, and I tossed them gently toward her feet and that space just in front of them.  She tried to throw them at me, and giggled every time one hit my legs.

I softly tossed another toward her feet.  At the exact same time, she had bent down to get more snow.  I couldn’t retract it; it was too late.  I knew what was going to happen a split second before it did.  I wasn’t wrong.  My snowball landed squarely in her face, and she shrieked.

“No hit me no more, Mommy, please no hit me no more!”

What had started out as innocent playtime had quickly turned into a disaster.  Her pitiful cries put a sinister twist on something that was a mere accident of play.

My heart sank.  I quickly wrapped her up in my arms and scooped her up into the air, cleaning away the snow and planting kisses where the snow had been.

Stripped of all the outerwear, we cuddled with hot chocolate and lots of marshmallows.

For days and days after that, though, everyone she saw heard her explanation of the events.  She’d shake her little head and repeat with certainty my promise to her that day.

“Mommy no hit me no more.”

 

 

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The Magic of Sticks

My oldest and her two kids had already gone on to other holiday adventures.  My youngest had squirreled herself away upstairs.  Husband had stretched out onto the couch.  Leftovers had been put away and the dishes were drying in the rack.  I put on a jacket and stepped out onto the porch.

It was a cold day, almost bitter.  Snow was still lying on the ground from Wednesday’s showers, and the porch still wet from what had melted there.  I heard squealing in the bottom below the hill upon which we live.  Through the now-barren trees, I could see the flurry of children playing in the remaining snow.   They were on the ground, then they were up and running, laughing, and enjoying their time outdoors, seemingly oblivious to the chill in the air.

One of them stooped to pick up a fallen tree branch.  It was just a stick.  Fairly long but not too thick.  He played with it for a minute and then tossed it aside.  Immediately I was thrown back to the many sticks and branches in my childhood that were not so carelessly tossed aside after only a minute of use.  In his place, I could’ve played with a stick all day.

A stick has all sorts of imaginative properties.  They are fishing poles, guns, hockey sticks, golf clubs, baseball bats, swords, daggers, pole vaults, bows and arrows, magic wands, and many, many more things depending on the kid who has the imagination to accompany them.

It helps if your family is poor and you don’t have all the latest gadgets and toys to distract from genuine playtime.  It also helps if your cousins are boys and they are your only playmates who prefer, like you, to be outdoors regardless of weather conditions.

As I was watching the kid who had tossed aside that magnificent stick, I wondered if he would have as much fun with his toys inside as I, at his age, had enjoyed with a stick outside.  I remembered sharing his agility, his ability to run, his carefree-ness that kept him from getting cold on days like this one.  I pictured myself at his age jumping off the porch and bounding down the hill to chase and be chased, to play with that stick, and enjoy being outside.  I wondered briefly if I still could, and the image of me doing so now, all grown up, flashed through my head.

Then I remembered that I now need to hold the railing when I descend those steps.  I’ve already fallen a couple of times in the last few years, and on one of those occasions I really thought I’d broken a hip.  The memory of it caused me to wince with the pain as if the injury was fresh.

I zipped my jacket up closer to my chin against the wind that threatened to give my elderly body pneumonia.  I shrugged off a chill, and then sighed with the acceptance that I’m now too old to play in the snow and exercise the childhood magic that turns ordinary sticks into any object I want them to be at any given time.

The rocker in the living room invited me warmly from the cold outdoors, and I always take comfort in its embrace.

 

 

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From Whence Inspiration Comes

As a kid, when I was on the bus or on the playground, I would daydream madly.  I don’t mean I had mad daydreams, I mean simply that it was all I wanted to do.  The teachers learned early on not to seat me near the windows.  Any little distraction would cause a mini movie to play inside my head, visible and audible only to me, requiring my complete and total attention.

I could be absolutely riveted by rivulets of water on a rainy day.  I would be instantly transferred into a scene that involved a small boat, a river, and an alligator.  Just as the alligator was getting sucked into a whirlpool, the teacher would call my name and forcibly remove me from my creation.

Daydreaming doesn’t work well while on a bustling playground, either, nor did it mix well with any sports related activities.  Right in the middle of whatever was going on, my mind would just drift off into the ether.

My height prompts people who meet me now to ask if I played basketball in my youth.  I tell them no, and explain that I simply didn’t have the coordination to play basketball safely.  And that’s true.  But the deeper truth is that I didn’t have the attention span.  While people were running all around me, screaming, etc., I’d be standing still in the middle of the court until I was jolted out of whatever internal show happened to be cued up in my head at the time.

Getting hit with a basketball delivers quite a punch.

As I got older I started thinking that maybe I should write some of those stories down.  I thought it might be fun to come back and read them when I got old.  I may have even gotten rich.  In fact, several great stories were written by me before they were ever written by anyone else and then got turned into movies.  In fourth grade science class, for example, Teacher got an aquarium and filled it with an iguana and some turtles.  I imagined Jurassic Park in my head.  Only it was called, “The Day the Dinosaurs Escaped the Zoo.”

I think they pay people extra to come up with really great titles for stuff.

I did eventually start to write my stories on paper, several times, but I never followed through with it.  Usually I just lost track of the notebook I’d started using.  Or I simply lost interest.  Writing about things wasn’t nearly as easy as just daydreaming about them.  And writing about them only made me feel dumb.  No one around me understood the compulsion I had to just create, to transfer those stories in my head to some other venue.  And my biggest fear was that someone would find out, or find my notebook, and make even more fun of me.  Being an already tortured kid is made worse when the kid manufactures the ammunition that she just knows will be used against her if discovered later.  “Oh look!  Jolly Green thinks she can write! Hahahaha!”

After high school, I made another attempt to keep track of some of those rambling thoughts and ideas with the intention of writing for real.  I lost track of them, too.  It didn’t keep me from writing, though.  I just didn’t use paper.  My daydreaming had already evolved into a form of head-writing.  That’s not a phenomenon, I know, but it’s what was happening to me.  In the shower, in the car, sitting in front of something boring on television – wherever I was or whatever I was doing, I was writing about the experience in my head.  I was telling the story to others in the way it should have been written if I were going to write about it at all.  Yet no words escaped my pen.

I attended a writing conference last year where I got to meet a local columnist I’d admired for years.  I think we’re about the same age, roughly, but she has a column, with her name on it, inside a well circulated and popular newspaper.  And she writes what I write – daily life type stuff.  It was such a thrill for me to meet her.

She gave my group some writing tips and shared the story of how she went from being somebody’s nobody secretary to having her name in the paper every week.  One of the tips she gave us was to write down those random thoughts and ideas to come back to later when we were stuck for material.  I really had tried doing that before, but since I’m all grown up now I thought I’d give it another try.  And I did.  For a while I faithfully wrote a few nonsensical words down on a slip of paper and put them in an envelope every time I had an idea and no time to write it out completely.

After a while I lost track of it.

I tried to find that envelope the other day when I was stuck for another blog post.  I was certain that inside would be the inspiration for a novel.  I imagined my fame when the movie hit theaters.  I heard a grandchild giggle when people asked for an autograph.

I finally found the envelope and anxiously opened its large flap.  There were two small, ragged, slips of paper inside.  On one, in a barely legible cursive scrawl, were the words “graves and tombstones”.

I have no idea what that means.

And I could no longer read the other.

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An All Girls’ Journey

Journey:  A Daily Prompt — WordPress suggested “Tell us about a journey — whether a physical trip you took, or an emotional one.”

 

Five years ago, when our oldest grand daughter was almost three months old, my girls decided they wanted to go to the beach for their birthday present.

My husband, knowing that he would be the only male on the trip, opted out.  It was going to be just us girls.  All four of us.  Which quickly turned into five of us when my youngest asked to take a friend.

In a way, I think I got off cheap.  Both of my daughters were born in July and I’ve always tried to separate their birthdays.  Having them eight years apart helped in that endeavor since neither of them were ever interested in the same thing at the same time.  Ever.

This was a birthday, though, that I could combine one activity for them both and still have some fun for everybody.  Even me.

So we made our arrangements, packed up everybody and everything, including the baby and all the stuff that goes with that, and off we went to the beach.  We were in no hurry.  My husband would have had a full blown fit if he’d been in that car.  We took about ten hours for a six-hour trip.  We stopped, we shopped, we played, we talked, and we giggled.  We pulled over to feed the baby, to feed ourselves, and to potty.  There were no hurries and there were no worries.

The sun was just beginning to set when we reached the hotel.  It was one of those tiny cheap hotels a block back from the beachfront.  With two beds, a small bathroom, and a television, we settled in for our two-night stay.  For our convenience, we also had a small refrigerator and a tiny microwave.

The three-month old stayed in the room with me a lot while the older girls went down to the beach.  At thirteen and twenty-one, I figured they could all take care of each other.  I was counting on the grand baby to entertain me.

When the baby ran out of bottles, I used the microwave to sterilize more.  I filled each up with water, placed them in the microwave, and let the water boil in them for about a minute.  It probably wasn’t ideal, but it was the best we could do under the circumstances.  She survived it, at any rate.

The trip back was just as lazy.  My husband swore we crawled home.  But really we were just enjoying each other’s company.  The baby slept most of the way, and if she cried we just pulled over again someplace else until she was settled.

It’s what you do with family.  Just pull over, rest a bit, and let everything settle.  And if you love each other, the pace at which you get back on track will never matter.

It’s the company throughout the journey, and the way you treat each other during it, that matters the most.

And plenty of diapers.  That’s important, too.

 

 

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Lost and Found

Buddy is our black Lab mix.  Our oldest got him when she was sixteen, nearly ten years ago.  She called home one day asking if she could have a puppy.  We told her yes, as long as he stayed outside and all care was provided by her.

She brought home a horse, not a puppy.  This thing was so huge!  She swore at the time that she was told he was only six months old.

This dog ate everything in sight.  Not just my plants, either.  He ate the planters, too.  When he was about two or three years old, we watched in horror as he ate a light-bulb.  I kid you not, this dog ate everything.

Both girls fell in love with him immediately.  He’s now an inside dog while my husband provides for most of his care.  When the oldest moved out, she left Buddy with us instead of taking him with her.  When she moved back in, she brought another dog, too.  Then my husband had two dogs to care for – both of them inside.

We think Buddy has a bit of Rottweiler in him, though just enough to make him a little shorter and stockier.  Otherwise, he looks like any other black Lab running around.  He’s great with kids, barks at anything, and takes a squirrel’s scurry as a personal affront.

Buddy loves nothing better than to be petted.  It took us quite some time to convince him that he was not a lap dog.

He’s also very protective.  When each of the grand-kids was born, he slept by the bassinet, and made a point to lay in the floor by the couch when one of them was sleeping on it.  When he walked us to the car, he stayed beside whoever had the baby.  He barks at the neighborhood to let them know that his family is protected, and he guides our vehicles down the hill to see us safely to the main road.

In direct opposition to Ogee, who you might remember from one of my previous posts, Buddy is rather smart.  He has an almost regal way of communicating with just the nod of a head, or the turn of a shoulder, to let us know exactly what he’s thinking.

He went missing a few years ago.  Not being able to find him drove our youngest out of her mind with worry.  She was only about thirteen at the time.  Both she and my husband had a sneaking suspicion that I’d taken Buddy to the pound myself.   My daughter was more vocal about it than he was, though.  While I was not responsible for Buddy’s disappearance, I simply was not missing him like they were.

We never knew why he disappeared, and after posting his picture all over the area and two or three trips to the shelter, we were finally shown a photo album that contained what could have been Buddy’s picture.  It had been about a month since his disappearance and I was certain that it wasn’t Buddy at all.  My youngest, however, held onto hope like it was her last breath.  We phoned the number and received an invitation to come and see.

I tried to talk her out of it, saying that it couldn’t possibly be him after all this time, but she was desperate to find out.  I may not be a wonderful pet owner, but I like to think I’m a good mom.  So off we went on our adventure to follow complicated directions to see a dog that may or may not be our Buddy.

The neighborhood where my daughter and I were going wasn’t that far away, but it contained a lot of intersecting and curvy roads.  We meticulously followed the directions we were given and stopped in front of a nice house with a small front yard.  Buddy sat in the middle of the lawn as though he’d been expecting us.

My youngest fell to her knees on the ground in front of Buddy, and he let her hug his great big neck with all the patience of a saint while she bawled her eyes out in joy that she’d finally found him.  After a moment, he gently placed his massive paw on her chest and looked her in the eye, as if to say, “It’s okay; I’m here.”

It was all a very touching scene to behold.  The lady who’d found him was crying just watching the two of them.  Even I was crying.  Not so much for finally finding Buddy; I could have done without that, personally.  But rather for seeing the calm settle over my daughter at having found him.  Now she would have some peace.

We’d assumed that Buddy had simply wandered off, but this place was fifteen to twenty miles away from home.  The lady said that when she saw Buddy he was clean and not at all bedraggled as though he’d walked for miles.  His collar was gone when she’d found him, but he wasn’t even hungry.  Now we think somebody picked him up in an attempt to steal him, and maybe later changed their mind.  We will probably never know.

Despite my best efforts to convince the lady that she could keep Buddy, neither she nor my daughter would listen to my well-reasoned advice.

I opened the back door of my car, exposing the back passenger seat.  Buddy hopped in and took his place, panting as if anxious to be on our way, yet waited patiently while I took off the lady’s leash.  When we got home, it was as though he’d never left.

That was almost five years ago.  Buddy’s still with us, although we don’t know how much longer we’ll have him.  He’s already ten years old, and the signs of age are showing in his ever whitening beard and roughened elbows.  Where he used to lope up the porch steps like a big old bear, he now limps and hobbles and waddles.  He still barks to let the neighborhood know that we’re under his protection, but you can see him think twice before he guides us off the hill.  He knows that once he’s down there, he’ll have the long trek back up.

And once in a while, after he’s had a bath, he’ll come and sit by me.  If nobody’s looking I’ll even pat his big old head a little, and maybe scratch an ear.

But don’t tell my kids.  I really don’t want another dog.

 

 

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The School Lies

There exists a news report about a threat made to the principal at George Washington high school in Charleston WV.  I just read it on line from a local news’ website.  Apparently some juvenile thought it would be funny to get on Face Book and talk about what he’d like to do to the guy.  As a result, the whole school was in turmoil all day.

I didn’t find out about it until much later.  My daughter, a student there, called me to inform about the presence of policemen everywhere and that the principal was walking around in a bullet proof vest.

Concerned, and not sure if this was just an out of hand rumor, I called the school. I was told that it was indeed just a rumor and that nothing was going on. Several minutes later, I received word that the classes were on lock-down.

I called the school again, and for the second time I was told that nothing was happening, there were no extra police on campus, and no one was walking around in Kevlar. I was laughed at for being gullible.  It was even suggested to me that I should address this very serious allegation with my daughter. The person who suggested it was the on-duty ‘regular’ cop at the school while he denied all knowledge of what was happening.  I felt foolish for having started to buy in to what my daughter was telling me.

Fifteen minutes later, I got an automated call from the school board telling me, and hundreds of other parents that had signed up for the notifications, that there had been a threat made yesterday on Face Book toward the principal, that additional security had been called in, and that additional precautions had been taken while an investigation was conducted.

So what sort of issues would they like me to address with my daughter? How to tell the truth?

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Decisions

My oldest daughter, now twenty-five with two babies of her own, is at a crossroads.  She has options, and has to make what could potentially be a life altering decision.  And she’s asked my advice.

I never thought I’d see this day.  From ages thirteen through twenty-one, she would hardly speak to me at all, let alone share anything with me, a stage I’m still getting used to from her little sister.

My twenty-five year old has always been independent, headstrong, and stubborn.

Okay, that’s MY fault.  She gets that from me.

To suddenly ask for my input into her potentially life-altering decision has me a little flustered.  I know it took a lot for her to do it, and I respect her for it.  But at the time she was asking, I was afraid any sound I made would break the spell, that she’d regret having shared with me, or worse yet, regret having asked my opinion.

All I could tell her at the time, though, was that any decision required due diligence in its consideration.  I also told her that only one of two things could happen:  either a change would be made, or it wouldn’t.   If it’s the fear of change, which she assured me it was not, then the only alternative is to allow things to remain the same.  The decision is solely hers to make.

If only I could make decisions for her, or at least make them easier, I’d do it in a heartbeat.  However, these are hers now.

But all of that had me thinking about the decisions I could have made for her over the years, advice I could have given her, if only I’d gotten to her more quickly.

For instance, I could have prevented her attempt to use a VCR to re-heat a grilled cheese sandwich.  It wouldn’t have been a life-altering decision, I know; she was only two.  But the VCR would have certainly thanked me.

Maybe I could have also prevented her from stuffing into her four-year-old little nose all those tiny Styrofoam pebbles from her favorite toy.

If the decision had been mine to make, she’d have never fallen for that first boyfriend.  Or the next four, for that matter.

But all I can tell her for certain now is that I love her, and I trust her to make the right decisions for her and her babies all by herself.  She’s all grown up now.  And she’s smart.

I like to think that’s my fault, too.

 

 

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Know it All

     It was a bad idea, and I knew it.  My attempts to convince my teenage daughter of it seemed to have no effect.  Our conversation quickly turned angry.  She was using her teenager’s frustrated voice and I was using my mommy’s authoritative voice.  I told her I thought it was a bad idea and she said she knew it was a bad idea.  I asked, “If you know it’s a bad idea, why do you want to spend good money to buy it?”  Her answer was simple: because she wanted it.  It was pretty.  Further arguing prompted, and I am not lying or otherwise making this up, “I KNOW, Mom — I know EVERYTHING!”

     Oh my.

     The issue at hand was whether or not to purchase, from eBay no less, a flimsy and whimsical polka-dotted, rabbit-eared case for her very expensive touch-screen phone.  Granted, she purchased the phone with earnings from her part-time job.  And she was also promising to reimburse me the $4.99 plus shipping for this atrocity she so desperately wanted.  But the Otterbox she’s using (on loan from her sister until she can buy one herself) is highly protective of the large purchase, and practical, albeit plain, while the flimsy baby blue polka-dotted bunny is neither protective nor practical. It’s only benefit is its apparent beauty.  I thought I was seeing reason.  My daughter just saw red.  And this is the argument that led us to screaming at each other.

     “So, you want me to buy the pretty case off eBay so you can do what exactly?  Set it on your dresser and admire it occasionally?  Because it will do no good whatsoever….”

     I was interrupted from my reasonableness.

     “Gawd, Mom!  Just BUY it; I’ll pay you BACK!  It’s MY money; I should be able to do whatever I WANT with it!”

     I’m reminded of how often I, having once been a teenager myself, thought I actually knew everything.  I’m comparing that internally with how often I actually did.  I’m definitely coming up short.  But how many times did I actually come right out and tell my grandmother, “I KNOW, Mamaw!  I know EVERYTHING!”

     You know, regardless of how many times I may have thought it, I never once said it out loud. 

     Upon her bold utterance, my daughter wheeled around and left the room.  Half-way up the stairs, I heard a muted “Whatever!”  I imagined she was about to use her expensive new phone to send an outrageous text to one of her friends with all sorts of accusatory remarks about her hateful mother. 

     Now the argument I’m having, as I sit here alone, is with myself.  It is her money.  She should be able to do whatever she wants with it.  Almost.  I do believe I should, as any good parent would, monitor her purchases and make sure they’re not harmful.  In that regard, the pretty little case is not harmful – as long as it sits on her dresser to be admired occasionally.  But if she actually puts it on her phone, and then drops the phone and it breaks…

     Some of you may say, “Well, it is her money; and it is her phone that was likewise purchased with her money.”

     I was thinking that way, too, until it occurred to me that if she did drop the phone, and it broke, she’d probably be looking to Mom for a bailout.  At that point, would I be afforded the rightful opportunity to refuse?  Maybe I would say, “See!  I told you!  I know EVERYTHING!”

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The Child that Is, Yet Wasn’t

As April rapidly approaches I find myself thinking more and more about my middle child.  Some years I don’t realize why I’m thinking about it so much until I realize that it’s the date conjuring up the negative memories.  While most associate the coming of spring with exuberance, rejuvenation, and new life, I associate it with loss.  The feeling always gets worse as April draws nearer.

My friend attempted to diminish my anguish all those years ago by reminding me that it was only a miscarriage and that since I had never met my baby I shouldn’t feel so horrible about losing her. 

Please don’t judge my friend; she had never suffered my loss so she just didn’t understand.  She really was trying to help.  That she was pregnant with her fourth child didn’t help matters any.

My oldest daughter, not quite four years old at the time, saw the test stick lying on the bathroom sink.  Always paying close attention to every commercial that came on television, she propped her little elbows up on the sink’s edge, looked at the stick, and repeated happily what she’d heard.  “Pink pregnant, white not pregnant!” she’d said with the same chirpiness that had been conveyed in the original commercial.  She didn’t know what it meant; she was just happy to relate to something that the grownups were doing.  The test area was most definitely pink.

My husband was scared about the pregnancy; I was delighted.  Being married at the time to a man 13 years older than I was had its drawbacks.  While I was fantasizing about a new addition to our family, our future with diapers, bottles, pink cheeks, giggles, and tons of love, he was counting his age at differing milestones.  At 36 for the birth he knew he’d be 41 at kindergarten, 51 before high school, and, he agonized, way too old to enjoy grandchildren if he lived long enough to see them.  When I got pregnant again four years later, with our youngest child, these feelings for him only intensified. 

Parenthetically, and perhaps prophetically, he passed away only a month before our first grandchild was born to our oldest daughter. 

The coming of spring, though, had never affected him the way it did me.  He tried to be supportive after the miscarriage but he just didn’t get it.  He didn’t understand the loss.  It wasn’t a baby to him.  And my behavior during subsequent springs had only served to confuse him.  I think it’s because he’d never met her.  I’m convinced that men fall in love with their children only after they see them.  For women, I’m certain it comes with first knowledge of their existence that has us falling head over heels.

I carried my baby nearly five months before tests revealed something was wrong.  Further tests showed that she had died some weeks earlier.  Devastation came only after denial, belligerence, and blaming.   Acceptance came last.  Yet periodic sadness still exists.

For four and a half months I knew about my baby and I loved her every bit as much as the child I could see.  That she was taken from me before I held her made no difference in the amount of love I continue to have for her. 

My grandmother understood, though.  It happened to her during what would be her final pregnancy.  She never forgot that baby and always believed it to have been a girl, following in the existing pattern of ‘boy, girl, boy, girl, boy’.  Whenever someone inquired as to how many children she had, the answer was always six, but she only got to raise five of them.  She said once that while the months following her own loss were the hardest for her, random thoughts haunted her the rest of her life.

We hadn’t yet picked out any names before we lost her.  Neither did we know for certain the gender of my baby, but in my mind I always think of her as a middle sister to my two living daughters.  During those nights when I have dreams about her, her name is Sara.  And while she didn’t exist in this world outside my womb, she still exists in my heart and soul, and I love her.

Had she survived the pregnancy, she would have been born in early autumn.  And so the coming of spring isn’t the only time, though, that I remember her.  Usually those thoughts at other times are filled, as an alternative, with curiosity about how she would look, what her interests would be, and where her talents would lie.  I catch myself smiling when I think of her sharing her older sister’s talent for the arts, singing, and drawing.  I smile again when I imagine she shares instead her younger sister’s talent for empathy, compassion, and insight. 

There have been 22 of those years in which my mind’s eye has watched my middle child grow from infancy into adulthood.  I’ve spent those years reconciling two opposing facts:  My child exists, yet she does not. 

And spring still remains the most difficult hurdle to surpass.

 

 

 

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